Hanoi, Vietnam is mesmerizing. The city is brimming with historic must-see sights, an aromatic and delectable cuisine and a stimulating cafe culture. Honking horns, buzzing traffic and vibrant vendors are the rhythmic, pulsing soundtrack of the city. It is intriguing, intoxicating…and intimidating. Planning what to do in Hanoi can be an overwhelming task – but don’t stress! Our Hanoi Itinerary includes all of the best things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam…and a few hidden gems, too.
Planning a Hanoi Itinerary
On our first trip to the city, we made no plans of what to see in Hanoi. We didn’t even have a guidebook. Our Hanoi sightseeing was highlighted by simply wandering around aimlessly. While it was a fine way to get acquainted with the city, we regrettably missed many of the best places to visit in Hanoi.
On a return trip to the city, we were much better prepared. We created a plan of where to go in Hanoi that included all the top Hanoi places to visit (which we missed on our first time through!) and we delved deeper into the city’s iconic cuisine.
The Best Hanoi Itinerary
Our itinerary features the best Hanoi, Vietnam things to do, see and eat. We routed our way to Hanoi must-see sights and indulged in the local fare – and we are sharing our plan. We include all of the top things to do in Hanoi – but leave plenty of room in our plan to linger at cafes and soak in the atmosphere. Fellow travelers who want to visit Hanoi can use our itinerary to plan their custom Hanoi Travel Guide.
What To Do in Hanoi: A Day-by-Day Guide
Our Hanoi trip itinerary is perfect for travelers who want to visit Hanoi, Vietnam to see the sights, eat the food and experience the culture. We include a detailed outline for what to do in Hanoi for 4 days – plus a one-day trip from Hanoi to explore more of the region.
Formatted in a day-by-day guide that features top Hanoi things to see, we also offer alternate Hanoi itineraries, tips on where to stay and other practical travel advice.
Pro Tip: Only have 1 Day in Hanoi? We include recommendations on how to see Hanoi in a Day – and other Hanoi city tour itinerary suggestions – at the end of the post!
Hanoi Museums and Landmarks
One of our biggest frustrations while visiting museums in Hanoi – and some gated landmarks, too – is the difficulty in finding accurate opening times and prices. Many Hanoi tourist spots are closed mid-day for a lunch break, and a few are closed all day on certain days of the week.
Finding current schedules and ticket prices is not always easy, even when you visit the attraction’s official website. The misinformation can be maddening – but we chalk it all up to being part of the Vietnam experience. That said, if there is a specific sight or museum that is a must-do in Hanoi for you, we recommend referencing multiple sources to help determine the correct information.
Hanoi Tourist Map
Another struggle while sightseeing Hanoi is navigating the city streets. We talk more about getting around Hanoi at the end of the post, but before getting to Hanoi, we recommend purchasing a Hanoi Map – like this one on Amazon. Sightseeing in Hanoi city is much easier when you have a basic understanding of the city layout (and the free Hanoi tourist maps are of little help!).
HANOI ITINERARY 5 DAYS
This Hanoi, Vietnam Travel Blog post contains everything you need to plan your Hanoi trip! Save, Pin or Bookmark it so you can easily access it!
DAY ONE: MUST-SEE VIETNAM ATTRACTIONS IN HANOI OLD QUARTER & FRENCH QUARTER
Begin your 5 days in Hanoi in the city’s most iconic districts: The famous Old Quarter and the opulent French Quarter. Complete your city discovery with a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake – visiting sights along the way – and end your day with a Hanoi original meal.
Pro Tip: Use our Hanoi Travel Blog Post: HANOI WALKING TOURS (Walks 1, 2 and 3) for more information on the places to see in Hanoi on Day 1. Our self-guided walking tours provide more detailed sight descriptions, walking tour route maps and links for step-by-step instructions.
Top Places to See in Hanoi Old Quarter
Get an early jump on your day and start your city exploration at the Dong Xuan Market – an absolute Must-Do in Hanoi! Explore the labyrinth of stall-lined lanes that fill the 3-story market hall. Emerge from the hectic market onto the chaotic streets and make your way to the city’s historic gate, O Quan Chuong. Next, visit the city’s oldest and most famous temple, Bach Ma Temple – then make your way to the Hang Bac Temple, a hidden gem in the Old Quarter.
Stop for a cup of coffee at 39 Ta Hien Cafe – and order a classic Vietnamese iced coffee with sweet condensed milk. Sit on a low plastic stool outside where you can savor the coffee and atmosphere. Continue your Old Quarter discovery along Hang Bac – the Silversmith’s Street – and pop into Dinh Kim Ngan Temple along the way.
Visit the Hanoi Ancient House – a historic merchant house that has been preserved as a museum (entry fee required). Next, wander along Pho Gia Ngu market street, a shop-lined street where vendors take up sidewalk space to sell fresh herbs, vegetables and raw meat. If you are squeamish, consider skipping the market street and head to the south end of the Old Quarter to Den Ba Kieu Temple, which sits on the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Places To Go in Hanoi French Quarter
Cross the red wooden bridge on Hoan Kiem Lake and visit the Ngoc Son Temple (entry fee required), then stroll south along the lake to the statue of Ly Thai To, the city’s founder, that proudly stands east of the lake. Walk through the park and past the frog fountain in Dien Hong Park to the National History Museum (entry fee required). Next, visit the most famous building in the French Quarter: The Hanoi Opera House. After admiring the historic, yellow Opera House, detour south of the French Quarter to Pho Thin for a bowl of the best Pho in Hanoi.
After lunch, pop into the posh Trang Tien Plaza Mall (if for no other reason than to cool off in the air-conditioning), then walk to the south end of Hoan Kiem Lake to the Hoa Phong Tower. If you need something sweet after your bowl of Pho, stop in S’Patisserie for a slice of cake then make your way to the west side of the lake to the Hanoi landmark church, St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Tour the dimly lit interior of St. Joseph’s Cathedral; then walk back to the lakeside where you can enjoy the peaceful retreat at the King Le Thai To monument. Stay by the lake and walk north to the large city square, Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc. Find the hidden entrance to Vuon Pho Co Cafe (Old Town Garden Café), where you can take in the rooftop views and drink a refreshing Lime Soda.
Explore the Ancient Guild Streets
If you have the energy, discover the 36 Guild Streets of the Old Quarter; each street was once dedicated to a specific trade and named for that craft. Find the street dedicated to the silk trade and the one where they sell children’s toys. Seek out the herbal medicine street or peek into the shops selling paper votives for Buddhist rituals. Simply wander on your own or use our Guild Street Guide in our Hanoi Walking Tours blog post (Walk #3).
Dinner in Hanoi Old Quarter
For dinner, sit down at one of the establishments featuring the famous Cha Ca fish dish – a menu item that originated in Hanoi. The restaurant where the dish was invented is on Cha Ca Street (along with several other shops that now make the same fragrant dish), but we recommend going to locally recommended Cha Ca Thang Long.
Alternate Dining Option: If Hanoi is not your first stop in Vietnam and you are craving a break from Vietnamese food, consider eating Western food at Pizza 4P’s or Amato Tapas. Want more food tips? Check out our Hanoi Food Guide for the best things to eat in the city!
DAY TWO: ICONIC PLACES TO VISIT IN HANOI
On Day 2 of your Itinerary for Hanoi, Vietnam, journey to the west of the Old Quarter to visit some of the top things to see in Hanoi: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Presidential Palace and ancient Citadel. Note: The sights visited on this day require appropriate attire; be sure to dress modestly – no tank tops, plunging necklines, bare midsections or short shorts (or bring a wrap that can be used to cover up); visitors who do not adhere to the dress code will likely be denied entry.
Pro Tip: We combined most of the Day Two Sights in our Hanoi Walking Tour Blog Post in Walk #4: Iconic Hanoi Walking Tour.
Best of Hanoi: Monuments
Start your second day in Hanoi by touring the ancient Thang Long Imperial Citadel (fee to enter). The historic complex features structures from different periods in time – including war bunkers that were used during the Vietnam War. Military enthusiasts may want to make a stop next door at the Vietnam Military Museum, too.
After touring the Citadel grounds, head west to the south side of Quang Truong Ba Dinh Square where there are a multitude of worthwhile sights. It is one of the best places in Hanoi to understand the Vietnamese people’s love for their former leader, Ho Chi Minh.
The most imposing sight on Ba Dinh Square is the stoic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where the embalmed body of the country’s most beloved leader sits on display. Visitors who want a peek of Uncle Ho will need to wait in line. Next, visit the Presidential Palace grounds (fee to enter) and the traditional Stilt House where Ho Chi Minh lived when he was president. After exiting, visit the historic wooden One Pillar Pagoda before leaving Ba Dinh Square via the north exit.
West Lake and Truc Bach District
On the southeast bank of West Lake, visit the Taoist temple, Quan Thanh Temple (fee to enter), then walk north along Thanh Nien Street that separates West Lake from the much smaller Truc Bach Lake. If you need a rest and refreshment, make a quick stop at the lakeside Highlands Coffee, a Starbucks-esque coffeeshop chain in Vietnam. As you continue north along the Thanh Nien, note the American War Memorial that celebrates the capture of American pilot and future US senator, John McCain. The memorial is near the spot in the lake where McCain landed via parachute after his plane was shot down.
Continue walking north to the small island on West Lake, which is completely occupied by the Tran Quoc Temple complex – one of the top Hanoi, Vietnam attractions. Many locals consider the 6th century Buddhist temple to be one of the most important in the city – and it’s free to enter.
Wander through the Truc Bach District, one of the lesser-known places to visit in Hanoi. Make your way to the Truc Bach Island on the east side of the lake (it’s connected to land via two roads) and find a seat at the Pho Cuon Huong Mai restaurant for a late lunch. Order one (or both!) of their signature dishes: Rolled Pho or Fried Pho. Walk off lunch and visit the Cho Chau Long Market and then make one last stop in the district: the Roman Catholic Church of Martyrs, more commonly known as Cua Bac Church.
Old Quarter Hanoi Night Market
If it is a weekend night (Friday, Saturday or Sunday), spend the evening perusing the wares at the Night Market in Hanoi. The market is set up on Hang Dao Street, which completely closes to vehicular traffic after 6:00pm. Vendors sell clothing, accessories, heaps of tourist souvenirs, sweet treats and all kinds of fried meat on a stick.
Walk the length of the street – from north to south – and then spend some time in the vibrant Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square. A fantastic place for people watching, look for large groups of people practicing Zumba and street performers.
Pro Tip: The market street isn’t the only street that becomes pedestrian-only on weekends; many of the Old Quarter streets close to vehicles on weekend nights. The streets become a lively scene. One night, we even stumbled onto a street-corner play and the crowds – both locals and tourists – gathered around to watch.
DAY 3: HANOI TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND CULTURE
On Day 3 of your 5-Day Hanoi Itinerary, spend time learning more about the city’s history and Vietnamese culture in top Hanoi places of interest.
Pro Tip: We combined most of the Day Three Sights in our Hanoi Walking Tour Blog Post in Walk #5: Culture and History of Hanoi Walking Tour.
Ancient Hanoi History
Start your third day bright and early with a jolt of caffeine from Cong Cafe. The modern coffeeshop features vintage communist decor and an amazing iced coconut coffee. Next, head into the Temple of Literature (fee to enter) to learn about the educational complex that dates to the year 1070. Art aficionados might want to look around the Fine Arts Museum (fee to enter) that is located nearby. Next, visit the Quan Su Pagoda, a picturesque 15th century Buddhist temple that also serves as the Head Office of Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha.
Modern History in Hanoi
Step inside the Hao Lo Prison (fee to enter), better known to most as the Hanoi Hilton Prison, where American POWs (like John McCain) were held captive during the Vietnam War. Learn about the prison’s history under French colonialism and stories of the POWs who were imprisoned there.
For lunch, eat a bowl of Bun Cha at Bun Cha Huong Lien. The restaurant was made famous when, in 2016, Anthony Bourdain and US President Obama dined there. Order the Obama Special (Bun Cha, a seafood roll and a beer) and consider how far the relations between the two countries have come in a relatively short time.
After lunch, visit the Vietnamese Women’s History Museum (fee to enter), which features displays and information about women’s traditional role in Vietnamese society. Learn about their position in the family, traditional fashions and how women have taken part in the country’s history.
Spend some time relaxing at your hotel (more on where to stay in Hanoi in a minute!) or simply stroll – without an agenda – through the Old Quarter. Once you have seen all of the sights, we think wandering the streets is one of the best things to do in Hanoi Old Quarter! Grab a Banh Mi sandwich for a late snack or early dinner before sipping a few local beers.
Ta Hien Beer Corner
End your third day in the city drinking a few local beers at the famous Ta Hien Beer Corner; it’s one of the top things to do in Hanoi at night. The jovial scene is boisterous, chaotic and highly entertaining. Simply pick a place and find a seat…if there are no tables, the waitstaff will quickly bring one out for you. Just beware: If the police come through and your table is in the street, the staff will quickly move you back to the sidewalk (at least until the cops are out of sight again). Pro Tip: Just don’t stay out too late – because tomorrow you will embark on a full day trip from Hanoi!
DAY 4: DAY TRIPS FROM HANOI
On Day 4 of your Hanoi Travel Itinerary, join a tour to explore more of the region outside of the city center.
Hanoi Day Trips
Day trips out of Hanoi are an ideal way to experience the region and learn more about the people. Good day tours from Hanoi will include a professional, English-speaking guide who can answer questions specifically about the tour and about Vietnam in general. Hanoi day tours are relatively inexpensive – and there are usually options to upgrade to a Hanoi private tour, if desired. Top day tours from Hanoi include a Halong Bay tour, a trip to Ninh Binh and exploring the area outside the Hanoi city center.
Hanoi to Halong Bay: Islands, Cruise, Caves and Kayaks
On our first trip to Vietnam, visiting Halong Bay was an absolute highlight of our travels! The enchanting landscape – an azure sea dotted with lush karst mountains – is surreal, and one of the top places to visit near Hanoi. For visitors short on time and unable to squeeze an overnight cruise into their Hanoi Itinerary, there is a jam-packed Hanoi 1-Day Tour to Halong Bay.
The 1-Day Halong Bay Tour is a full day of exploration. The tour features pick up from Old Quarter hotels, bus transport to Halong Bay, a cruise through the majestic karsts, a cave visit, a kayaking adventure and a seafood lunch. The tour – which gets rave reviews! – costs less than $50 USD. Book it now!
Pro Tip: We think a 2-Night Halong Bay Cruise is the best way to experience the natural beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read our Halong Bay Cruise blog post for recommendations and tips!
Hanoi to Ninh Binh: Hoa Lu, Tam Coc and Mua Cave
One of the top things to do near Hanoi is to visit the wonderland of Ninh Binh. Steeped in history and natural beauty, the Ninh Binh Province is nicknamed, “Halong On Land.” Between the flat, green rice fields, stark karst mountains rise to the sky…and a river flows between them.
A full day tour from Hanoi to Ninh Binh features the highlights of the region. Participants are picked up from Old Quarter hotels and driven via air-conditioned bus to the province, which is south of the city. The English-speaking guide then leads the way to numerous Ninh Binh activities – such as a traditional Tom Coc boat ride through three caves, a bike ride through the village, a visit to the ancient capital of Hoa Lu and a hike to the top of Mua Cave for phenomenal views. Guests are also treated to a traditional Vietnamese lunch. Reserve your spot!
Pro Tip: Read about our experience visiting Ninh Binh from Hanoi and how we wished we had planned better!
Hanoi Outskirts by Bicycle
Visitors who are looking for things to do around Hanoi without boarding a bus can explore the outskirts of Hanoi by bicycle.
On this half-day tour from Hanoi, guests pedal their bikes into the rural villages that lie just beyond the bustling city center. Led by a professional Hanoi guide, tours are limited to 12 people to ensure a small group setting. Follow the guide across the famous Long Bien Bridge, bike through farmland, visit a local artist at their home, see how pottery is made in the village of Quang Ba and watch the sunset over West Lake. Find out more!
More Day Tours from Hanoi
The above-mentioned Hanoi day trips are our top picks – but there are other tours that you might find interesting.
Travel 2 hours to the ancient Buddhist complex of temples and shrines built directly into the Huong Tich mountains. Enjoy a ride in a rowboat, trekking to a cave and visiting the historical Heaven Kitchen Pagoda. Get the details!
Bat Trang Pottery Village, Van Phuc Silk Village and Duong Lam Ancient Village
Get a full dose of traditional Vietnamese crafts, culture and history on a full day tour from Hanoi. The tour begins in nearby Bat Trang – a village well-known for making pottery and ceramics. Next travel to Duong Lam Village, which features century-old houses, and take a bike ride through the farmland to temples. Before heading back to the city, make a stop at Van Phuc, where locals practice the traditional craft of silk weaving. Learn more here!
DAY 5: WHAT TO DO IN HANOI FOR UNIQUE EXPERIENCES
On the last day of your Hanoi 5-Day Itinerary, satisfy your curiosity for unique Hanoi experiences by tasting local fare or learning a local craft.
Morning: Indulge in Local Fare
The food in Vietnam is like nowhere else in the world. Fragrant and flavorful dishes dominate the local cuisine. Visitors can discover the food scene three ways: Go on a Self-Guided Discovery, Join a Hanoi Street Food Tour or Take a Cooking Class.
Discover Local Food on your Own
Start your day with a feast and eat a local favorite breakfast dish: Xoi Xeo. Available at markets, we recommend ordering it at Xoi Yen topped with pork ribs and a fried boiled egg. Save a little room for a classic Egg Coffee from the nearby cafe that invented the Hanoi drink, Giang Cafe.
Pro Tip: Use our Hanoi Blog Post: HANOI FOOD for top tips on What and Where to Eat in the city!
Join a Guide for a Hanoi Street Food Tour
Rather than plotting your own route through the city’s best eats, learn about the local cuisine from a local Hanoi tour guide. On the small-group Hanoi food tour, participants can get a taste of the best street food in the city! Read the rave reviews!
For a real education in Vietnamese food, join a Hanoi Cooking Class. The half-day class that I took offered so much more than I expected – and the food was phenomenal (seriously, some of the dishes were better than in the restaurants we ate at!). Sign up now – or read the details about my experience in my Hanoi Cooking Class blog post.
Afternoon: Neighborhood Exploration
Use the final afternoon of your Hanoi trip to discover a new neighborhood – or revisit one that you loved! Walk the circumference of Hoan Kiem Lake, hop in a Grab Taxi to the West Lake District or go cafe hopping in the Truc Bach neighborhood.
Alternatively, give your feet a break and take a relaxed Hanoi city tour in a Cyclo for a different perspective of the city – book it online! Or, cover some ground on two wheels on one of the guided Hanoi scooter tours! The highly-rated Hanoi sunset ride tour features the city’s top sights – book it now!
Visitors who want a break from sightseeing can take in some culture instead by watching a famous Water Puppet Show – get your skip-the-line tickets!
Evening: Unique Things To Do in Hanoi – Train Street
Visiting train street is one of the more unusual things to do in Hanoi – and a great place to witness the commercial culture of the city. Once just a neglected neighborhood along the railroad tracks, when tourists started showing up to take pictures of trains chugging through the narrow alley, homeowners took note. They opened front porch cafes and shifty balcony bars, successfully raking in tourist dollars.
UPDATE: As was likely anticipated, the government has effectively ‘shut down’ Train Street until further notice. Tourists are currently forbidden to enter the tracks and all cafes, bars and shops have been ordered to cease operations. However, tourists who want a glimpse of the train barreling through the neighborhood, can watch from the intersection. The most recent train schedule we found had the following train times: Monday – Friday at 7:00pm, 7:45pm, 8:30pm and 10 pm and on weekends at 6:00am, 9:00am, 11:20am, 3:20pm, 5.30pm, 6:00pm, 7:00pm, 7:45pm, 8:30pm, 9::00pm and 11 pm.
Night: Local Bia Hoi Corners
Drinking Fresh Beer – or Bia Hoi – is one of the fun things to do in Hanoi with locals. The Fresh Beer is made daily and delivered to restaurants in large metal tanks. Ice blocks are often put on top of the tank to keep the beer cold in lieu of actual refrigeration. However, at 12k VND or less, it doesn’t really matter that much how cold it is. The best places in Hanoi for Fresh Beer are Bia Hoi Corners – and there are several around the city.
Bat Dan Bia Hoi Ha Noi
At Bat Dan and Duong Thanh, two Bia Hoi Corner Bars sit catty-corner from each other. The open-air bars have low tables and chairs that spill out onto the sidewalks (but never the street). A popular spot with locals, each small glass of Fresh Beer costs just 12k VND – which is about 50 cents USD.
New Bia Hoi Corner: Hang Buom and Dao Duy Tu
Dubbed by locals as the New Bia Hoi Corner, beer vendors pop up all along the stretch of sidewalk after dark at the intersection of Hang Buom and Dao Duy Tu. On weekends, when the street is closed to traffic, live bands set up on the corner. While it is popular with visitors, locals visit this corner, too. It’s a genuine, cheap, and local Bia Hoi experience – and glasses of beer only cost 5-7k per glass (that’s about 25 cents USD)!
Fresh Beer at Dao Duy Tu and Luong Ngoc Quyen
Another fun Fresh Beer corner that pours cheap glasses of Bia Hoi is nearby at the intersection of Dao Duy Tu and Luong Ngoc Quyen. However, rather than vendors serving the drinks, the beer comes from the established corner restaurants. Pro Tip: Hai San Seafood has a happy hour special from 5-7pm, Buy 1 Get 1 for 5k. By far, the cheapest beers we found in Hanoi!
How Many Days in Hanoi?
We think 5 days in Hanoi is the perfect amount of time to get acquainted with the city and surrounding area. It allows plenty of time to see the Hanoi highlights and experience the top Hanoi activities. However, we understand that not all travelers have the option of spending 5 days in the city. To help travelers determine how many days to spend in Hanoi, we have a few suggestions.
Hanoi Travel Itinerary Suggestions
We think our Hanoi, Vietnam itinerary provides the perfect plan for what to do in Hanoi for 5 days. But, if you have more – or less – time, you might be wondering how to plan your trip and where to go from Hanoi. We have created sample Hanoi itineraries – from a Hanoi 1-Day Itinerary to what to see in Hanoi in 3 days to how to spend a week in Hanoi.
Want our tips on planning your time in Vietnam? Use our 2-Week Vietnam Itinerary!
One Day in Hanoi
There is so much to see in Hanoi that it is really difficult to determine what to squeeze into a Hanoi One-Day Itinerary. That said, an ambitious traveler could combine the top Hanoi landmarks (like the mausoleum, citadel and Old Quarter) from the above itinerary’s Days 1 and 2 into a jam-packed One Day in Hanoi Itinerary. Otherwise, for ease of travel, consider joining a Hanoi one-day tour – like this highly-rated tour!
Hanoi Itinerary 2 Days
Planning what to do in Hanoi for 2 days is a little bit easier, but still requires a good sightseeing plan. With 2 days in Hanoi, we recommend following our above guide for Day 1, then choose either Day 2 or Day 3…or combine them together for a really long – but very interesting – day of city sights.
Alternatively, two days in Hanoi could be spent hassle-free with a tour guide. On the first day, take the Hanoi Highlights tour (book it here!) and on Day 2 join the street food tour (reserve your spot!) or cooking class (book it now!).
Hanoi Itinerary 3 Days
Wondering what to do in Hanoi for 3 days? We recommend simply following Days 1, 2 and 3 as outlined in our 5-Day Hanoi Itinerary. With 3 days in Hanoi, there is plenty of time to indulge in the local fare, too. Just use our Hanoi Food Guide to find the best places to eat in the city.
Hanoi Itinerary 4 Days
There are lots of different ways to create an ideal Hanoi 4 Days 3 Nights Itinerary. However, for visitors with 4 days in Hanoi, we recommend using our above Hanoi 5-Day Itinerary…and choosing between going on a day trip from Hanoi or taking a guided tour in the city (basically, decide between Days 4 and 5).
Hanoi Itinerary 6 Days
Visitors with 6 days in Hanoi can enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace. With the extra day, visitors can easily fit in a 2-Night Halong Bay Cruise. Alternatively, choose a second Hanoi tour or event to learn more about the city.
Hanoi Itinerary 7 Days
A 1-Week Hanoi Itinerary allows more time to get to know the city. We recommend following our tips for a 6-Day Hanoi Itinerary – and adding a second day trip outside of the city center for a different cultural experience.
More Sample Hanoi Itineraries
For the above itineraries, we use Hanoi city as a base. Visitors who don’t want to spend all of their time in the city can create a multi-stop itinerary for Northern Vietnam.
5-Day Hanoi and Halong Bay Itinerary
Above, we outlined what we think is the absolute best way to spend 5 days in Hanoi. However, we do highly recommend visiting Halong Bay on an overnight trip. Visitors who do not have time in their overall Vietnam Itinerary to fit in a trip to Halong Bay – either before or after visiting Hanoi – can create a Hanoi-Halong Bay Itinerary.
In fact, it is similar to what we did on our first trip to Vietnam. We recommend following our outlined 5-Day Hanoi Itinerary for Days 1 and 2. Then, take a 1- or 2-night Halong Bay Cruise and spend your final 1 or 2 days back in Hanoi (following Days 3 and/or 5 of our above itinerary).
Pro Tip: Planning a Hanoi-Sapa Itinerary is just as simple. Rather than going to Halong Bay, book one of the highly-rated Sapa, Vietnam tours from Hanoi – like this one.
7-Day Northern Vietnam Itinerary: Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa
A 1-Week Northern Vietnam Itinerary could easily be created by using our detailed 5-Day Hanoi Itinerary (with a recommended trip to Ninh Binh) and then including either a 2-night Halong Bay Cruise or 2-night Sapa Tour on the final two days.
Alternatively, tourists who want to visit all three destinations – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa – could plan 3 nights in Hanoi (following Days 1, 2 and 3 of our 5-Day Hanoi Itinerary), 2 nights in Halong Bay (using our recommendations in our Halong Bay Cruise blog post) and a 1 or 2-night trip to Sapa.
It is important to note, however, that the distance between Halong Bay and Sapa is 435km – and it takes between 7 and 10 hours to drive between the two cities. It is possible to plan the trip on your own, but with all of the logistics involved, we think it is worth booking the 3-city trip with a guide. Get the details and find out what is included in this tour.
10-Day North Vietnam Tour Package
An alternate Hanoi tour package includes visiting the most northern – and some say the absolutely most beautiful – part of the country (but does not include Halong Bay). The 10-Day Vietnam trip begins and ends in Hanoi – and stops at Sapa, Ha Giang, Dong Van, Bao Lac and Ba Be Lake. Promising incredible experiences and unique landscapes, the organized tour includes accommodations, activities and most meals. The highly-rated tour is offered by the reliable tour company, Intrepid Travel.
HANOI TRAVEL TIPS
Now that you know the best things to see in Hanoi and the surrounding region, we have a few more tips for your trip!
When is the Best Time To Go To Hanoi?
Located in Northern Vietnam (and in the Northern Hemisphere), the city of Hanoi experiences four seasons. Many visitors like to plan their trip based on weather conditions – however, weather in Hanoi can be unpredictable. It is also important to take note of public Vietnam holidays, when certain sights may be closed.
The summer months – June, July and August – are the hottest and the humidity can be stifling. It’s also considered Rainy Season in the summer, meaning frequent (but usually quick) downpours. In the autumn – September, October and November – the temperatures are usually slightly cooler (although we experienced temps above 108 F, about 42 C, during our last fall trip).
Winter in Hanoi – December to February – sees cool temps, ranging between 50-70 F for highs (which we think is perfect for sightseeing!). And, during the Spring – March, April and May – temps start creeping up and the skies are often overcast with light showers.
Check the current weather forecast for your Hanoi trip on Weather.com.
Before planning a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, it’s important to check the Vietnam holiday calendar. Many of the public holidays in Vietnam are religious and cultural events that many Westerners are unfamiliar with. Tet – which is better known as the Vietnamese New Year – is the biggest holiday in the country and is marked with week-long celebrations in February. There are other public holidays in April (Hung Kings Festival mid-April and Reunification Day on April 30), May (Labor Day on the first), in September (National Day on September 2) and January 1 for New Year’s Day.
How To Get To Hanoi
Visitors can arrive to Hanoi via plane, bus, train or car (including a private driver, if coming from somewhere else in the region). On our trips to Hanoi, we have arrived by plane to the Noi Bai International Airport.
The airport in Hanoi is located about 45km from the city center. Visitors can hop in a cab at the airport, but will pay more than pre-arranging transportation. Most hotels offer airport transfers – either included in the price of the hotel or for an extra specified amount. Visitors can also pre-book a ride online on Viator in advance.
Getting Around Hanoi
We think the best way to get around Hanoi Old Quarter is on your own two feet. However, while sightseeing outside of the Old Quarter, we recommend using the Grab App to catch a ride. Grab taxis are significantly cheaper – and so much easier to use – than flagging down a taxi and trying to negotiate price and communicate destination. Before your trip, be sure to download and set up the Grab App.
Shopping in Hanoi
There are many options when it comes to Hanoi shopping! Hanoi markets sell everything under the sun, including tourist souvenirs. However, visitors will want to practice their negotiating skills in order to obtain the best price. Shopping in the Old Quarter is not limited to markets; there are a multitude of shops lining the Old Quarter lanes where visitors can pick up Hanoi keepsakes. Buyer Beware: Some of the items for sale in Hanoi are counterfeit knock-offs, which often are low quality products.
Where To Stay in Hanoi, Vietnam
The best area to stay in Hanoi is in the Old Quarter. That said, with the honking motorbikes and inebriated tourists, it can be loud. Therefore, we recommend staying in a hotel on a pedestrian-only street. On our last Hanoi visit, we stayed in Amber Hotel, which we think is one of the best places to stay in Hanoi.
Amber Hotel in the Hanoi Old Quarter
Hanoi Amber Hotel is a small boutique hotel right in the city center. What we loved best about the hotel was the spacious rooms, ice-cold air con and lovely staff. Because the hotel is located on a small (car-free) alley, the hotel is particularly quiet (especially considering its location!). The only downside is there are a lot of stairs and no elevator – but the staff insists on helping carry luggage up and down the stairs, so it wasn’t a problem for us. One additional feature: a delicious, made-to-order breakfast is included in the price. Check availability and rates!
Hanoi Accommodation French Quarter
Visitors who want to stay in the grandiose French Quarter and splurge on accommodations have plenty of choice! Among the 5-Star Hanoi hotels in the French Quarter, the following come highly-recommended by fellow travelers: Hilton Hanoi Opera (check rates!), Sofitel Legend Metropole (check rates!) and MGallery Hotel de l’Opera (check rates!).
Swimming Pool Hanoi Hotel
Of all the Hanoi Hotels, there are relatively few Hanoi hotels with a pool – and those that do tend to come at a premium price. That said, there are a few hotels with swimming pools in the Old Quarter that get consistently good reviews. Check the current room rates on one of these pool hotels in Hanoi: Silk Queen Hotel Hang Gai (check room availability!) or Tirant Hotel (get current rates!).
Hanoi Backpackers Hostels
Backpackers looking for the best locations to stay in Hanoi have a plethora of choices of hostels in the Old Quarter. Little Charm Hostel (which has a pool!) gets exceptional ratings . Buffalo Hostel – also with a pool – gets great reviews, too!
What To Pack
As you prepare for your trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, make sure you have the following items! And, for more packing tips, take a look at my complete packing list.
It is important to pack the right clothes for your trip. Visitors traveling to Hanoi in the warmer months will need loose-fitting, modest clothing. Make sure to have clothing that covers knees and shoulders so that you can enter temples – or bring a multi-functional wrap that you can carry with you while sightseeing.
With the unpredictable Hanoi weather, we recommend bringing lightweight and versatile weather gear. A packable raincoat is a good choice – and a travel umbrella can provide protection from both rain and sun. Remember to pack good sunscreen, too – as it is expensive to buy in Vietnam. And, finally, don’t forget the insect repellent to keep the mosquitos away!
Hanoi is visually stimulating and extremely photogenic! Capture the beauty of the city with an actual camera, rather than relying on your phone. We travel with a DSLR Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens, which takes exceptional photos. Travelers who want something a little smaller (and less expensive) might want to buy a Canon Powershot, which is what we sometimes use for city shots. The pocket-sized camera takes quality photos and the newest versions are WiFi enabled so that travelers can share the photos in real time.
Hanoi Map and Guidebook
As we mentioned before, we think buying a Hanoi map – like this one – prior to your trip is a smart move. Understanding the layout of the city and where the top sights are helps visitors better navigate to sights. And, although we provide a lot of detailed information in this Hanoi trip blog post, a guidebook can also be helpful.
Visitors traveling with locked phones can contact their cell phone provider to inquire about short-term international plans. However, frequent travelers and those traveling in a group or as a family should consider buying a Mobile WiFi Hotspot, like GlocalMe.
Mobile WiFi Hotspot
GlocalMe is the device we use – and we would be lost without it! The GlocalMe device can connect up to 5 devices at one time. The best feature, however, is that there is a slot for SIM cards, but data can also be purchased online – so it will be available as soon as your plane lands! Buy a GlocalMe Hotspot on Amazon!
We think Travel Insurance is essential! Not only can travel insurance help cover the cost of cancelled trips or lost luggage, but it can provide coverage for emergency medical care too…and no one can predict getting ill or injured abroad! Check coverage and rates on World Nomads.
We Want To Know: What would you add to our Hanoi Itinerary? Do you have any tips for what to do in Hanoi, Vietnam? Give us your best advice in the comments below!
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